If you were to compile a list of the greatest riffs in rock history, it would be littered with Jimmy Page riffs. One of the greatest guitarists ever, his riffs range from edgy to funky to bluesy and everything in between. As fun they are to listen to, they’re even more fun to play. So, why not use them as exercises to improve your guitar playing? Here are 5 Jimmy Page riffs to increase your finger dexterity.
Dexterity is essentially your ability to coordinate fine motor movements. Knowing that, it’s obvious that building dexterity is an important part of playing and improving on guitar. Without it, your guitar playing ceiling will be pretty low.
There are many traditional exercises that can help develop finger dexterity, but it’s good to use “real music” as much as possible. There’s a musicality that’s developed when using…well, music.
The Jimmy Page Riffs
The Jimmy Page riffs I chose for this lesson are great for building dexterity in the beginner/beginner-intermediate guitar player. They incorporate string skipping, bends, vibrato…you name it. The rhythmic variation and fingering requirements will help you improve on common weak areas and force you outside of linear and uniform playing patterns of typical guitar exercises.
So, let’s get to it and break down the riffs.
Riff 1: “The Ocean”
The Ocean is one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs simply because of the groove of this riff. It’s impossible to listen to it without bobbing your head along.
The riff opens with a couple of quick hammer-ons from fret 5 to 7 on the D (4th) string before playing down an arpeggio pattern from the 5th fret on the D string to the 7th fret on the A string to the 8th fret of the low E string.
Note the fingering for this section of the riff below:
Involving the pinky finger on the 8th fret of the 6th string can be a bit problematic for the beginner guitar player or intermediate guitar player who hasn’t developed enough coordination/strength in the pinky finger.
The next part of the riff is simple, but can challenge your coordination at first because of the groove. Again, the fingering I use is noted below.
You can hear the full riff here: The Ocean
Riff 2: “Black Dog”
Black Dog is quick and shifty. The technique in this riff is fairly basic, but the arrangement requires a bit of coordination. You’ll want to start slow with this one and gradually build it up to speed.
The first part of riff contains a little chromatic lick into a roll on between the 7th frets of the 4th and 5th strings. The roll is an important technique to develop and dexterity will improve in the process.
The second part and last part of the riff have a couple of quick position shifts. Shifts like this require that the note before the shift be released quickly or you end up with a little inadvertent slide between positions.
You can listen to the riff here: Black Dog
Riff 3: “Heartbreaker”
Heartbreaker. Another Led Zeppelin song with a groovy icon riff that’s just plain fun to play.
In this riff, you also see a little chromatic lick as you did in Black Dog. Only this time instead of there being a roll at the end of it there’s a string skip.
This is particularly effective at building finger dexterity in the second part of the riff that begins on the 2nd fret of the 5th string. This section requires the use of the pinky finger for the string skip and a 1/2 step bend.
Listen to the riff: Heartbreaker
Riff 4: “Out on the Tiles”
Out on the Tiles is kind of a back to basics sort of riff.
The pinky finger roll on the 4th fret combined with the repeating two note licks will help build both technique and right hand/left hand synchronization.
Listen to the riff: Out on the Tiles
Riff 5: Moby Dick
Despite being recognized mostly for the amazing drum work of John Bonham, Moby Dick offers a great riff for the beginner-intermediate guitar player. It’s yet another example of a dirty, groovy riff by Jimmy Page.
*Note that the 6th string is tuned down to D.
Similar to Out on the Tiles, this riff also includes a two-note repeating lick that I think is great for building fundamental coordination and synchronization. It gets your pinky involved as well, which you can never have too much of.
Listen to the riff: Moby Dick
Improving finger dexterity is crucial for continuing to develop as a guitar player. These Jimmy Page riffs are fun to play and will accomplish just that. While traditional exercise can be effective, sometimes the best exercises are found in the music itself.
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